How should government respond when social networks are being used to help plan illegal activity?

In response to the riots, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said he’s looking at banning people from using social networks if users are thought to be planning criminal acts.

Today’s Question: How should government respond when social networks are

being used to help plan illegal activity?

  • John

    Nothing, I don’t want government controlling the only true free media we have left.

  • Duane

    Criminal activity needs to be prosecuted where possible. Freedom of press does not trump a criminal activity. I believe it was in New York recently that the towers handling cell phone activity were shut down briefly when I became clear a mob was planning to overrun a certain store. We survived for many years on land lines, and we can revert to that if this criminal activity continues to grow.

  • Duane

    Correction..comment should have read “when IT became clear”

  • Joe Di Marius

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Illegal? Who police’s the police when they are committing illegal acts like shooting defenseless people? Revolution is not a matter of legality; it is a matter of last resort. If the government, whether in the U.K. or here in the U.S. is willing to strip freedoms for any reason at all, then the nation as a whole has failed.

  • Eric

    Nothing; the internet must remain free. Social networks are a form of pure, unfiltered media. To allow their shutdown in a time of unrest puts us straight on the path to what Orwell laid out in 1984.

  • Julie

    We have lost so many freedoms in the past couple decades, this is just another way for government to control the people.

  • J Dre

    Organized protesters (and criminals) will find a way around this (rioters may not) and the public will be angry and frightened without access to social media.

    Shutting down social media will be very unpopular; when they shut down the internet or smartphone service we will know the entrenched interests are really afraid.

  • Greg

    (1) create a government social-media site the publishes their names,pictures and suspected activities – thus using the power of social media against them. in a few years, like the E. German state of yore – we can all report each other and slowly devolve into a nation of mutually suspicious and self-righteous shut-ins. Culture will die – creativity will die and we will be re-branded China-West. (2) Shut-down the entire internet and only allow people who are at monitored terminals to use it. Within a few years regionalism will take rampant hold. – as will a few of our other less savory “ism’s”. After a few decades – secessionist movements will gain popularity. Washington-Oregon states will join Canada. California and Texas will establish themselves as new countries. Manhattan will be sold to a NorthEastern Indian gaming compact to finance repairs to the Eastern Seaboard infrastructure. (3) Leave it alone – solve the people problems with people management – technology is the problem – people are.

  • david

    Good luck with that cameron you moron. Is moron bush teaching a class somewhere on how NOT to lead a country? Enact that and watch the rest of London burn.

  • Max

    If you are stupid enough to advertise your criminal intentions on social media then you deserve to have it used against you. Why do people think social media is private? If I walk out on the street and start shouting “Hey guys lets loot this store!” what do you think the police should do? You have no expectation of privacy when you broadcast information on a public forum.

  • bsimon

    “How should government respond when social networks are being used to help plan illegal activity?”

    By arresting those who commit crimes. If hooligans are planning a flash riot, plan for a flashmob of riot police at the same location.

  • Philp

    Let’s see you wave the flags of discontent when it’s your car, home, or business that’s been burned. What will you say to the authorities when it was advertised on a place like Facebook? There’s a Proverb which comes to mind over this: Prov. 26:3 “A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools.”

  • Brittany

    “Nothing, I don’t want government controlling the only true free media we have left.”

    So very true. Authorities can arrest those who commit actual crimes, but no shutting down social media – NO CENSORSHIP.

  • Steve the Cynic

    I’m waiting to hear from the paranoid nutcase who surmises that David Cameron organized the riots just so he could grab power in this way.

  • Kathy

    Any legitimate government needs to monitor social media sites like they would any other for criminal and terrorist activity and messaging. Shutting down sites or cell phone service is not the answer.

  • Joanna

    The same thing we would do if people used word of mouth, letters, the telephone, or smoke signals to plan criminal activity: use existing laws to punish criminal activities themselves, not forbid the use of the media itself. The same social networks were used in London by people to organize clean-up, to warn each other to stay away from dangerous areas, to document crimes, to exchange messages of hope and solidarity. The UK already cameras set up just about everywhere; people in public are under a level of surveillance we would find unacceptable (although we have such cameras as well).

    Do we ban the Post Office if people commit a criminal conspiracy by mail? No, but a letter (or a wiretapped conversation) might be evidence in a court.

  • GaryF

    The Internet must remain free.

    Think this would have happened after November 1, 2012, when shall issue handgun carry permits become law?

    Thugs become more bold when they know the masses are unarmed.

  • CF

    The premise of this question is yet another example of how MPR is puppet of the Regime. Perhaps MPR should be better known as Myanmar Public Radio with an afternoon program called All Things Communist. To imply, as the question suggests, that not if but how the Regime should violate our Constitutional right to freedom of speech and assembly is something right out of the Soviet Union, Red China or North Korea.

    Throughout history “social networking” in any form has been used to advance the cause of freedom ever since man was capable of mass communication, which is considered a crime by every tyrannical government. Take for instance the Tienanmen Square liberty movement. Even the Communist Chinese could not prevent the movement from using the FAX machine to organize their protests. In Nazi Germany, Hitler confiscated all the radios, yet there were always a few that hid their sets so they could secretly listen to the BBC in a closet. In the USSR Xerox machines were banned. What happened to the USSR?

    Criminals don’t need a social network. As long as sin exists in the world there will be sinners, social networks or not. And for the Regime to think it can control social networking is like trying to catch butterflies in a tornado.

  • Leanne Kunze

    Tricky question. This assumes that “illegal activity” is something that jeopardizes public safety. In that case, go after the alleged criminals and follow due process. It also assumes that “the government” is a rational, representative body who puts people and country before powerful money interests.

    Currently, I find it too easy for the government to deem some Constitutionally protected activity as “illegal” or “suspicious,” especially when the activity is calling attention to corruption and/or abuse of power. The people are the foundation of a free country. I am disappointed to see so much focus on political leaders trying to keep the people (the real government) from exercising their rights and power while a few Big Banks and Big Business and go unpunished for criminal activity that threatens our entire country’s economic system.

    The biggest example right now is the Patriot Act that allows “the government” to provide a vague definition of what a terrorist is…including the denial of Constitutional rights to Due Process to a U.S. citizen who exercises their Constitutional rights in shining the light on corruption and abuse of power, or by providing humanitarian aid such as food, water and medical supplies being construed as material support of terrorists.

    How about the question: What should the people do when they learn their government is engaged in or planning illegal activity?

  • greg

    GaryF “Thugs become more bold when they know the masses are unarmed. ” ============ >>>>>>> Those thugs must have really good demographics research. they seem to know everything about everyone.

  • GaryF


    Citizens of England cannot legally carry a handgun and all long guns are heavily regulated. Most people in London don’t even own a simple shot gun.

    People of Wisconsin have plenty of long guns, but do not have the right to legally carry a concealed handgun.

    The people in Norway can’t legally carry either, HECK! The cops can’t carry also.

    That leaves normal people sitting ducks for bad people.

  • John

    How should government respond when social networks are

    being used to help plan illegal activity?

    It depends:

    There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

    There are helpful activities that may be considered illegal… these need to be discussed and reconciled. However, plans to loot and harm individuals, neighborhood businesses, and social/cultural utilities/center should be thwarted.


    Prohibition… goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes… A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded. – Abraham Lincoln

    The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our nation’s marijuana laws. – Barack Obama, January 21, 2004 debate

    “People who make a personal decision to smoke marijuana should not be subject to prosecution.”—U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D), February 26, 2011

    “Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.”

    Henry David Thoreau

    If the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.

    – Terence McKenna

    The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world. – Carl Sagan

    There’s some sort of quantum uncertainty law in operation that means that if a thought is pinned down too hard, if a thing is defined too exactly, then the essence and life of that experience is not properly conveyed. – Alan Moore

    In the province of connected minds, what the network believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the network’s mind there are no limits. However, that while there are no absolute limits in the province of the mind there are real and definite limits in the province of the body. – Dr. John C. Lilly, M.D.


    The internet is just training wheels for the coming global resonant telepathy.

  • Peter

    Not even privilege, be it doctor patient (in states that recognize such privilege), or attorney client protects communications that reveal the planning of or commissioning of a crime.

    Not sure how “if users are thought to be planning criminal acts” works. If the state wants to ban someone from social networking devices after they have concrete evidence of them planning the commission of a crime, I cannot see an argument against that. How does the UK gov’t plan on preempting the use of social networks for crime planning. Certainly the companies will not pay to monitor the many communications that occur a day. The gov’t will not. Seems that the devices are not the problem, they are magnifying people’s discontent and dereliction. The appropriate thing to do is accept that it is the 21st century and deal with the riots when they happen, or invent a global time machine (an interesting “Conservative” aspiration). May want to try to deal with the underlying problems causing the riots too, while punishing wrongdoers to the fullest extent of the law.

  • Greg

    Posted by GaryF “That leaves normal people sitting ducks for bad people.” ============================================ Guns are the ultimate “solo-citizen” solution. A gun owner has given up on working with the community and has made the decision that if anything “untowards” happens – its an invitation to solve the problem with a gun. Guns don’t improve your community – people do.

  • greg

    the internet USED to be a governmental thing. Its being privatized. Pretty soon – freedom of speech won’t have any application to that medium either. Corporations largely control what we laughingly refer to as public/free press-media. Corporations – that Mitt Romney loves – have more rights than you do – because they own the tools that you think of as public or free media – and the Big C’s can force it to report and bolster opinions that have nothing to do with the reality of the American public. ever see a retraction or correction for a page one story , or a leading piece on TV … they generally are reported in the used car ads or right after the dead news piece.

  • Patrick

    Ooooooo… the public quivers in fear at the thought of losing a few hours of online addiction, yet allow the elite to trample on every other aspect of their lives.

    These online incited riots in Britain and Frisco…. bored sheep inciting bored sheep over the cliff.

    Future….nearly paraplegic bored online addicts inciting cyber riots as media giants grin. All part of the program.